International Community Development in Uganda and At Home

by John McDoane
(Friday Harbor, WA, USA)

When I was 19, I traveled to Uganda on a musicology scholarship with a teacher and two other students.

Although our goals there were to document, record and classify the native musics of the country's many indigenous cultures, I quickly found more and more of my time revolving around understanding how these people, living in the midst of such dire poverty, managed to survive.

The key, as is the case in so many other communities, was interdependence. Everybody there knew that if they needed support, they could find it.

Resources were pooled and shared in a way that didn't reward slacking off, but rather accepted that no single person could make it on their own. And the communities were so tightly bound together by family and religious ties that, although you felt the strain of living in such an undeveloped country, you kind of envied that closeness.

I spent the next fifteen years living in New York City, which was exactly the opposite situation. Americans seem to glorify the archetype of the "self-made man," regarding community interdependence as a weakness.

Remember how mocked Hillary Clinton was for "It takes a village." But then my wife and I moved with our 2 year old child to a small island in the Pacific Northwest, with a population of less than 8 thousand people. And here, that spirit of community and interdependence has been rekindled.

Because there is no way onto this island besides ferry boat or small plane, resources are somewhat scarcer - not anywhere near Third World conditions, but enough to make you strongly consider what you purchase and what you produce.

As a result, the bonds between families and peer groups are much stronger, with items like medical supplies, baby clothes and gear, et cetera shared freely according to need. This isn't something that was declared by a government or forced into happening - it was simply a result of geographical location and economic circumstance. But it worked here, it worked in Uganda, and it can work abroad as well.

Editors Reply Thanks for that contribution. Yes, we agree that community building, awareness of community, and interdependence of individuals within a community are key concepts in both international development and frankly in continued positive evolution in highly developed societies.

We want to point out that war and unresolved conflict are absolute enemies of this type of positive awareness of interdependence. This should cause all of us to work for peace however possible.

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